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Former gubernatorial aspirant in Bauchi State and All Progressives’ Congress chieftain, SENATOR Suleiman Nazif recently spoke to Journalists in Abuja on recent political developments in the his state in particular and Nigeria in general. Yemi Akinsuyi was there
What do you have in store for those who are joining the APC?
As far as I am concerned, APC is the party offering millions of Nigerians the opportunity to bring about change; not necessarily those who have made ‘names’. Even those who have no names are welcome to come make their own names. For those who are formidable enough to join the party, it is a welcome idea. Same applies to those who are known or unknown.
But then, it is not about making names; rather, it is all about doing the right thing. We have been going in cycles for so long that it has become apparent to everyone that there is need and desire for change and that this change must be effected, so that Nigeria can be a better place.
For those who are still undecided, seeing those personalities leave the party will also encourage them to do same. I can tell you that they are only bidding their time. We will welcome them. For those who took the bold step, we welcome them wholesomely and thank them for the sacrifices they have made and the places they have earned in history. They must know, though, that it is an opportunity to show Nigerians the stuff they are made of.
Some people argue that if any person leaves a party on whose platform he was elected, he should forfeit the seat. What is your take on this?
This is not the first time that members of a party have cross-carpeted to another party. Besides, we have not seen, in the past, where anyone’s seat was declared vacant for cross-carpeting; and the Senate President has made an open declaration concerning that. Nigerians desire change and it is only through radical means that this change can come about. Now, let me assure you of one thing: by the time more lawmakers in the House of Representatives move over to APC, PDP will become a minority party. Slow and steady wins the race. As a matter of strategy, political wars are won even before they are fought. Every Nigerian alive today knows that PDP is crumbling. This is the real reason why they have resorted to all sorts of strategy to stop people from cross-carpeting. APC has beaten them in the governors’ forum; we have beaten them through public opinion, we have beaten them in the NASS and we will beat them on the‘d-day’.
You can now see why PDP is so agitated about this cross-carpeting. Some members of National Assembly do not care if they take their seats from them; they will still cross-carpet and if elections are re-conducted, they will win. The comfort is that it won’t get to that level, because no one will remove them from their seats.
But how can this change which you have been harping on come about, if there is no change in the constitution or the composition of the Independent National Electoral Commission?
If you were in Abuja few weeks ago, you will recall that we marched to the headquarters of the INEC to tell Jega how unhappy Nigerians are about the way the election in Anambra State was conducted and the non-provision for a supplementary election. You can see how thousands of Nigerians followed our leaders in that peaceful protest to the commission’s headquarters, to tell the chairman about the disappointment of Nigerians and that enough is enough. That is enough. What we did has sent a clear message to Nigerians and the international community that what some miscreant got away with in the past will no longer be tolerated in the present and in future. We also succeeded in communicating to him that we want effective conduct of our elections; we have had enough of irregularities and support the philosophy of one man, one vote.
For Jega, it is an opportunity. 2011 is past and what happened then should not be allowed to repeat itself in 2015; Nigerians will not accept it.
As we speak, you and I know that APC is not only a force to reckon with, but also the party for you to make name, the party through which you can make Nigeria better. The party for the younger generation to contribute to, for the sake of change and history.
You talked about one man, one vote; but how can you do this if you do not go down to the grassroots?
Our party is fully prepared and we are gearing up towards 2015 elections. There is a lot of sensitisation going on within the party and Nigerians. Our party leaders are fully involved. The locals and our officials in the states are also aware of happenings within their communities. They are advocating, campaigning and soliciting for one man, one vote and sensitising Nigerians for same. The awareness campaign is at an advanced stage and we are targeting the key areas – Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Bauchi, just to name a few. Seeing that they are pre-dominantly APC-controlled, I can say that the hand-writing is on the wall.
The eyes of Nigerians are wide open and we have all shone our eyes. We are looking at the ball now, as well as the players.
How do you think power can change hands in Bauchi, your home state?
Let me tell you; Bauchi is in the hands of the opposition. In 2011, the present administration intimidated the people by imposing curfews to win. Everyone knows what happened in Bauchi. The difference is that we are poised to ensure that does not re-occur in 2015. If you think that abracadabra can play out again, it is an assured impossibility.
What makes APC different in terms of ideology? The party is being swelled by disgruntled elements from other parties?
APC, I must say, is an ideological party and the members are bound by the desire and the need to make Nigeria a better place. Those who came to form APC sacrificed to do so; that is why it is such an effective merger, something which Nigerians once thought was impossible. Though, many difficulties and challenges came to play, we were able to overcome as a result of our belief. The deeply rooted desire to make Nigeria a better place, the effective governance we desire for the country, the way we are looking to achieve the agricultural potential of the country, the way we want to put in place our infrastructural development to globally accepted standards.
This ideology propelled us to form the APC, not our own agenda. That is why all of us are making the sacrifice and no sacrifice is too great to make Nigeria a better place.
Some party stalwarts have left their parties to swell the ranks of the APC. This has prompted analysts to foresee an ego-inclined politics.
What is the party doing to ensure that APC does not become another PDP?
Our party has been founded on sincerity, rule of law, equal opportunities for all and internal democracy. Internal democracy is one factor which will be well emphasised by the party, so that the people can be allowed to choose who they deem fit to lead them.
At this point, the sacrifice we are making is to ensure that PDP becomes a minority party in Nigeria. That is what this radical solution is all about. They will be made to learn more about internal democracy and other factors which make an ideal party. they can only do that when they become a minority party.
To buttress that point, I want to assure you that we are out to make a difference. We all know the consequences. We are not out to celebrate, but to work for the Nigerian people and to ensure that Nigerians feel the impact of good governance and leadership.
You have consistently complained about the INEC. Do you think that the commission will be a fair umpire or a foe in 2015?
As far we and other Nigerians are concerned, we are grossly dissatisfied with the way and manner in which the INEC has conducted recent elections, the one in Anambra being the most recent. Having swept all other bad records aside, Anambra should have been the best example for the 2015 election; but we were disappointed with what happened in Anambra – a state, not even a region, yet elections could not be held there in a day. We want all that to change.
For the INEC, if they have made mistakes in the past, they should be looking towards redeeming themselves come 2015. I can say, assuredly, that people will protect their votes this time. INEC should know that.
If, perhaps, you emerge the governor of Bauchi State, what are some of the changes you will bring about?
There are numerous changes on the cards, but first and foremost, sincerity and rule of law will be the first thing I will entrench. The second is to ensure effective local government elections. The people in the locality should be allowed to vote for who they want; that is where democracy is being practiced at the highest level, because those rural people only know their councillors and local government chairmen. Therefore, we will ensure that whoever wins the free and fair local government elections will be given the mandate to go and serve the people at that level. When that is done, we can now go on to educational, agricultural, economic, infrastructural development and all other reforms. We will also seek to attract investors to the state and other things. But, basically, these people who have been disenfranchised for many years (after giving us their votes) should be given the opportunity to vote for people they believe in.
The insecurity in the North is quite unsettling. What is your take on this and how does your party hope to tackle this snag, should it come to power?
The unrest which we have been experiencing in the North-eastern region of this country for some time has been challenging, but it is not an issue for those of us in that part of the country alone; it is a Nigerian issue and it should be addressed as such. Insecurity in a country should not be politicised.
Without mincing words, everything boils down to the leadership, being able to find a way or give excuses. When it is good, we will celebrate it and also say so when it is bad, as well. All Nigerian leaders must understand that this is a very challenging issue and that what seems impossible can be made possible, so that Nigeria can remain united and strong. I believe that with the kind of leaders we have in APC (the selfless, determined and dedicated, responsible type who place Nigeria above themselves) we can bring the change to its resting point and look deeper into the insecurity in the Northeast zone. Sincerity of purpose is very fundamental.
Are you saying the present leadership is insincere?
This leadership we have in Nigeria has not lived up to expectations. If you want to achieve something, you will find a way and if you don’t, you give excuses. Like I said, this leadership should understand that the time has come for them to know that it is time for them to take a bow now that the ovation is loudest. They should go and rest and let APC take it from here by instituting lasting solution that will make Nigeria great.
They are worn out. Go and ask the principal officers of the party why they cannot pull their weight in their states, which have been taken over by the opposition. Of course, they have no answer; they are a reflection of the fact that time is up for the PDP.